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Donna Brewer is sewing quilts for each of the roughly 30 members of VFW Post 1697 in Ooltewah. / Contributed photo by VFW Post 1697

For Donna Brewer, honoring veterans isn't something she does just once a year on Veterans Day.

Brewer said she began listening to a local Christian radio station, and was so impressed with the generosity of area Christians that it inspired her to do something to honor veterans year-round.

Service is in her blood — her grandfather was a World War I veteran, her father a World War II veteran, and her husband a Vietnam veteran. When she and her husband moved to Chattanooga to be closer to her parents' senior living facility, he joined VFW Post 1697 in Collegedale.

In 2016, she promised the roughly 30 members of Post 1697 that she would make each of them a quilt. She's given away four or five every year since, a total of 14 so far.

some text Donna Brewer presents one of her handmade quilts to veteran Phil Garver of VFW Post 1697 in Ooltewah. / Contributed photo by VFW Post 1697

"It's something they could see every day to let them know how much they're loved and appreciated," said Brewer, as to why she felt handmade quilts would be a good way to honor veterans. "It just seems our veterans don't get the respect they deserve."

Each quilt features a unique, though typically patriotic, design. The post suggests to her which member should be honored next, and if she knows the person well enough, she'll personalize it according to their interests, she said.

For one member who was a former minister, she sewed a quilt of her own design that featured three crosses and a red, white and blue color scheme.

"Each veteran thinks theirs is the best," Brewer said with a grin.

Her second quilt recipient, former post Quartermaster Clarence Merritt, broke down in tears when she presented him with his quilt. He likened the experience to the surprise party thrown for him when he retired from the Navy, which he considers one of his happiest moments, she said.

Dave Turner, a Vietnam vet who received a quilt from Brewer, was struck by its precision and beauty.

"It's a real talent, there's no doubt about that," he said. "It's a lot of work, and we really appreciate it. I don't know how many people go around putting this much effort into a gift for someone."

Brewer hand-sews every quilt, doing all the piecing and top stitching — a task that many quilters outsource, she said. She spends an average of 60-100 hours on each quilt, along with about $150-$200 for materials.

"It's just my way of thanking the men and women who have done so much for our country at a sacrifice to them and their families," said Brewer. "What makes it all worthwhile is their appreciation for getting them."

Email Emily Crisman at ecrisman@timesfreepress.com

some text Donna Brewer presents veteran James Durichek with one of her handmade quilts. She included three crosses in the pattern to personalize the quilt for the former minister. / Contributed photo by VFW Post 1697
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